You shred personal documents, you use numbers and symbols in passwords and your smartphone always stays locked; so your family’s identity is as safe as it can be, right? Wrong. While many of us take care to protect our own personal information, we’re neglecting to consider an increasingly common victim of identity theft – our kids.
Kids are a low-hanging fruit for many fraudsters, as credit scores and financial records often go unchecked for 10 or 15 years.
Just how vulnerable are the Social Security numbers of our nations’ minors? Experian, one of the major three credit reporting agencies, recently reported that child ID fraud or theft will affect 25% of kids before turning 18. Of the fraud cases handled, about 17% were targeted at children.
Unfortunately many kids don’t realize fraud has taken place until they go to open their first bank account or apply for college financial aid. They assume it’s their first activity, only to discover credit cards with high balances, loans that they never applied for or even crimes they didn’t commit on their records.
If your child starts receiving credit card offers or notices from the IRS saying that they didn’t pay their taxes, then they may be a victim of identity theft.
Think twice BEFORE providing their Social Security number.
A SSN may be part of a sports team or camp’s standard form, but do they really need it? Instead, see if they can use your child’s other information for their records. SSNs really only need to be used for tax-related purposes.
Safeguard their information.
Shred documents containing personal information, or invest in a fireproof safe.
Limit your details on social media.
Think about it, how much of the information needed to steal a person’s identity or answer security questions are contained on their social media profile? Their date of birth, where they were born, where they went to high school or college, who their best friend is – most of it’s on there. (Tip: See our post for more, 6 Ways to Keep Your Information Safe on Social Media.)
Check their score.
When your kids turn 16, contact the major three bureaus and check their report and score – Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. All are required to give one free report per year. By checking at 16, your child should have enough time to sort out any issues. (If you do suspect fraud or identity theft, then you should check immediately.)
Monitor for activity.
For more protection, consider enrolling your child in a credit or identity monitoring service. For a monthly fee, you’ll get notified if something suspicious related to your family’s information is found on the internet and other databases.
Our new Green Checking account comes standard with IDProtect.
IDProtect monitors over 1,000 databases for your family’s names, addresses, dates or birth and Social Security numbers. You’ll even get daily monitoring of your credit files with alerts via email and text, if activated. IDProtect also offers resolution services if someone in your family is a victim of identity theft, and they’ll reimburse you for expenses related to the theft and the credit cleanup process. Contact your local branch to find out more.
If you suspect that you or your children may be victims of identity theft, then you should act immediately. The Federal Trade Commission’s IdentityTheft.gov site allows you to easily report identity theft and offers a guide to helping you to recover.
Green Checking requires $100 to open and has a $6 monthly maintenance fee. Click here to visit our Secure Checking Benefits page and find out more about IDProtect and read the full disclosures. Some benefits of IDProtect do require registration and activation, but all are available at no extra cost to our Green Checking account owners.